Highly stressful workplace environments can negatively impact employees, both physically and emotionally. Workplace stress has been linked to elevated blood pressure, increased risk for cardiovascular disease, fatigue, and low productivity. Psychologically, being overly stressed throughout the workday can make an individual more vulnerable to symptoms of anxiety and depression. To address this growing problem, businesses and mental health professionals have tried to create techniques that would allow employees to better manage their stress, without impacting worker hours, deadlines, or overall company costs. Ruth Q. Wolever of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University School of Medicine used existing research that demonstrated the effectiveness of yoga and mindfulness as a basis for her study.
Wolever implemented a mindfulness and yoga intervention, accessible in person or online, to employees over a 12-week period. The intervention was designed to be completed 1 hour a week, and if the employee chose the online program, it could be done at any hour of the employee’s choosing. Wolever measured the participants for sleep quality, levels of pain, productivity, breathing and heart rate, blood pressure, mindfulness, and mood. After the 12 weeks, Wolever found that the intervention participants had increased levels of sleep and decreased levels of stress compared to the controls. Additionally, the intervention improved the heart and breathing rates of the participants.
Wolever noticed that there was lower attendance levels for the online mindfulness program, but those who did participate were much more attentive and engaged than those who enrolled in the in-person program. She believes that the results of her study underscore the viability of implementing a short-term, cost-effective stress management intervention in the workplace. By having access to online interventions, employees did not need to leave their work space, making the virtual program even more attractive. These findings demonstrate that highly stressed workers can benefit from relatively short and flexible interventions that can be tailored to fit nearly any environment. Ultimately, decreasing stress positively impacts employee productivity and company costs. Wolever added, “It is therefore imperative to find ways to address clinically significant stress in the workplace that are practical, effective, and easily implemented.”
Wolever, R. Q., Bobinet, K. J., McCabe, K., Mackenzie, E. R., Fekete, E., Kusnick, C. A., Baime, M. (2012, February 20). Effective and Viable Mind-Body Stress Reduction in the Workplace: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027278
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